TOKYO (Reuters) - Panasonic Corp forecast a third straight year of profit growth for the year to next March but at a much slower pace, counting on a re-orientation towards higher-margin industrial products such as car batteries to fuel growth.
The electronics conglomerate said it expected annual operating profit to rise 1.6 percent this fiscal year to 310 billion yen ($3.04 billion), a fraction of last year's 90 percent growth rate and just short of 20 analysts' average estimate of 325.6 billion yen according to Thomson Reuters StarMine.
Panasonic, which has cut out consumer smartphones, plasma TVs and a chunk of domestic semiconductor production this year, booked operating profit of 305.1 billion yen for the 2013/14 fiscal year ended on March 31, beating its own guidance of 270 billion yen and analysts' average expectation of 292.02 billion yen.
Panasonic has plotted a turnaround focused on products sold to other businesses, including the automotive and household fixtures industries, while pruning or abandoning businesses that are not profitable.
($1 = 102.0350 Japanese Yen)
(Reporting by Sophie Knight; Editing by Edmund Klamann and Christopher Cushing)